Interview With Photographer C.T. Pham aka Phamster

In an effort to bring the interviews back to Randomn3ss, photographer CT Pham agreed to play Q and A with me.

You were recently featured in an article I wrote for Light Stalking entitled 7 Photographers you will probably hear about in the future. I chose to feature you in there because of the urging of several on a Canon photography forum and your Flickr portfolio, one that is heavily commented by viewers and admirers of your work.  How do you feel about this? Continue reading »

Exclusive Interview with Chuck Billy of Testament

This is a guest post by Markus Goldman, a DJ at WMMR in Philadelphia.

Today I was able to speak with Chuck Billy, lead vocalist of the metal band Testament. We spoke about many a subject including their current US Tour where the fans are picking the set list for their town by voting at Testament’s MySpace page.  We also chatted about Europe, European fans, suits being afraid of metal, the San Fran scene of the late 70s and 80s, Their latest record – The Formation of  Damnation, Beating Cancer, Testament’s Dubai Show, and the Troc in Philly.

Testament will be at the Troc on Wednesday, May 27th with Unearth and Lazarus A.D. Go to the Testament MySpace to vote for the songs you want to hear when they hit Philly. Chuck Billy was very easy to talk to and quite interesting.

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Interview with Ray Gurz, Broken American & Influence Victim

I don’t exactly recall first meeting Ray, it has to be at least 15 years ago because it was before I had my drivers license (insert old joke here).  Back then he was in a hardcore band called Grow and played at most local shows I was at.  We had similar groups of friends but eventually lost touch as the years went past.  A little more than a year ago I bumped into him and we realized we still had similar groups of friends, and that he picked up photography as a hobby, something I’m very passionate about.

Ray went on to tell me about a project he was working on, a book comprised of photographs shot on various Polaroid cameras.  The opening night for the art show was at a mutual friends skateboard shop and I marked the calendar.  Great reception, great one-off prints for sale and good vibes all around.  It dawned on me at that moment though that more people needed to know about this project.  Wait a minute, I run a successful blog, I should tell people about it!

After approaching Ray with the idea of an interview and feature and he was down.  Below is the interview.  In keeping with the integrity and originality that is Ray, I have made very few grammatical corrections to his replies, I don’t think they were necessary. polaroid.jpg

Randomn3ss: Why photography as a medium? You’ve been creative with music and painting for so many years, what made you choose photography as your next artistic medium?

Ray: I bought a Polaroid camera awhile ago and just started shooting anything that struck interest in me. Whether it was at a show, a random person , or especially a skate spot. I been wanting to document all the contraptions I build to skate to. Then, it just grew from there.

Randomn3ss: Digital is cheap, fast, some say better and generally more convenient, yet you chose Polaroid instant film and old cameras.  Why?

Ray: I am a person who is analog. I have analog ways. Plus, it is a Polaroid. The mistakes and or total hits of each picture rule. As forest gump said,” Polaroid’s are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get!’’ok, maybe he said life but Polaroids can get thrown in there to.

Randomn3ss: Since Polaroid instant cameras don’t have a lot of photographic control, I’m sure you must have captured some bad images while shooting.  What makes a bad Polaroid?  When do you know you truly have a winner?
 ray1.jpg
Ray: I think everyone’s interpitation can make a photo good or bad. Sometimes I can be so amped on a picture and then someone would be like, ‘’I can’t believe you shot this. ‘’ “It has so much blah , blah, blah “. I  really, never thought of it that way. I love it because of this.

Randomn3ss: You have a book out, Influence Victim, a self published, small run book of photography done on Polaroid.  Did you start shooting with the intention of making a book or did you think about making the book after you started to shoot?

Ray: well, I just shot once and awhile and one day someone,( no names), said, these are good but I don’t think you can make a book. I went home pissed .  the next morning I woke up and said, fuck it! I am going to shoot for the rest of a year and make a book.

Randomn3ss: Tell me about the concept of putting a book together on your own.  When did you know you had enough photos? How did you weed through the bad ones and only show the good ones?  Are any of the shots preconceived or were they all done spur-of-the-moment and you just happened to have a camera with you?

Ray: the concept of the book is simple. It’s one year through my eyes. I am a skateboarder, artist, I am in two bands, I work, married, have two dogs and a lot of friends. So, I just wanted to capture each moment I was into at that time.

When did I have enough photos ?

Ray:  after a box and a half were filled. But, I do chose my shots wisely. Weeding thru them was a pain but I still want to use the other ones in another project down the road.

A lot of the photos I take are spur  of the moment. I just go, take a pic and move on. I can’t zoom in on anyone. I have to walk up to them and talk and if they let me shoot a pic, rad. I carried that camera around with me like it was my wallet. Every where, every day.

Randomn3ss: A large number of the images in the book are in portrait format, yet have a very un-composed feel to them.  Was that important to you?

Ray: I have no idea what you are talking about.  Really. I just shoot and go. I just see something and I have to shoot it. I never went to a  photography school or art school.

Randomn3ss: I know a fair amount of people in the book, but the ones I don’t know are even more appealing, the way you shot them makes me curious about their story.  Was this done intentionally?

Ray: Not intentionally. A lot of people ignore what takes place on a daily basis. The people they pass or the places they see. As a skateboarder, you are always on the lookout for skatespots. So, I took that and just drove around looking for people. Some were happy that they were having their picture taken. It almost felt like they were amped that they were noticed by some guy and he wanted to take their picture. A few instances, the photo looked so good, I took two and gave the person the other one.ray2.jpg

Randomn3ss:  You put this whole book together by yourself.  That is to say, no one funded it, did the layout for you, chose the layout, etc.  How difficult was it?  Would you consider doing another book?  Would you suggest other photographers to self-publish?

Ray: I be lieing if I said I did it all by myself.  I had chris horn scan all the photos. A chore in itself. And Andrew Po gave me suggestions on how to put it together. Andy and I would start the format we both agreed on and then he just be like, alright, I have shit to do, yell for help if you need it. And it was my first time laying something out on a computer. I can do emails but a real layout and what not. Like I said before, this guy , ray, is analog. Actually, when we got the samples back, I had to lay the book out beginning to end again . so many late nights.

This book was funded by myself . I almost tried a publisher but I felt I could get more feeling of accomplishment if I self published it. This book was a challenge and I survived. So, with this one under my belt, I am thinking  of my next project.  It will be with a Polaroid or with 35mm.

Randomn3ss: And my suggestion for other photographers to self publish?

Ray: In life, don’t be that person who said I should have. I personally, hate that. Be that person who tries and if you fail, fuck it. You tried.

Randomn3ss:  What’s in the future for Ray Gurz artistically?  What can we expect to see?

Ray: I am planning out my next project right now. At least a more narrowed down topic. Another book for sure. I am planning on doing a zine of photos as well.  And I have recently bought lost soul skateboards. I was pro for them before the purchase. The owner was planning on selling it and I , once again said fuck it, and now I own a skateboard company. So I will be doing more artwork for the boards and the rest of the line.

Randomn3ss: Any shout-outs, thanks, etc.?

Ray: a big shout out to you Mike, Andy Po/ Homebase Skateshop , Chris horn and my wife Michele. She , along with a lot of my close friends,  were down for the idea and gave me support to finish it. A huge shout out to John / Keystone digital printing for helping me out with this.

broken_american.jpgRay’s book, Influence Victim can be purchased on his blog, Broken American – click the BUY NOW button in the top right corner, pay via Paypal, tell him you heard about it from Randomn3ss, wait for it to come in the mail, enjoy it over and over again.  There are also several original Polaroids for sale and a small number of enlargements, which can be seen in these photos from the art show opening.  Contact Ray directly through his blog if you are interested.

Interview with J-dub

This will be the start of the Randomn3ss interview series. They are designed to help spread the word of new talent and question those who have accomplished professional careers. If you or your band / crew are interested in being interviewed, please use the contact page to get a hold of me. I am interested in doing interviews with nearly all types of musicians, DJs, rappers, artists, and photographers, on and on.

J-dubI was introduced to J-dub via MySpace not long ago, from a bulletin I posted stating that I was looking to interview people for here. A friend of mine republished the bulletin and J-dub replied to me, as he was not my “friend” yet. Knowing nearly nothing about him, I took a few minutes to read the bio on his MySpace page and listen to a few tracks. He produces drum & bass music, something I’ve been a fan of for more then a decade. Listening to the music, it is not nearly as angry, fast obnoxious as most dnb that I’m used to, but more calm and light, almost jazzy. This is great for me to chill to, read a great book or for long road trips.

Randomn3ss: Your bio states you got your first keyboard in 1988 and started to make beats from that. What was the driving force to start playing with sounds and how did you know what you were doing would sound good to others?

J-dub: I didn’t, it was all pure experimentation at that point. I was taking piano lessons at the time and I remember thinking I hate the way a plain old piano sounds. So I would just experiment with the different sounds on my old keyboard. I actually still have it today

Randomn3ss: Most of your background up until the late 90’s was driven by hip-hop, it’s no surprise you made the jump into drum & bass, they share many similarities. From my personal experience, the end of the [real] rave scene, which popularized dnb among other styles of electronically created music, was all but dead by 98-99. Why would you start your dnb production career during the downspin of this genre?

J-dub: I started because this music spoke to me in a way that no other music had also on a side note I in no way think this genre is dead or on a downspin. Especially with the rise of such new genres such as dubstep.

Randomn3ss: So you met Dara randomly and he tells you his label needs more stateside producers, and you started there? Have you had anything pressed yet on Breakbeat Science?

J-dub: No, nothing pressed at the moment. I think that is all gonna change though, real soon. But meeting Dara was definitely a high point that’s for sure. I was just a young raver and he actually took the time to speak to me. That’s when I knew d&b was where my heart was so to speak

Randomn3ss: From the music I’ve listened to, you sample a lot of jazz and more down tempo beats, I’d almost say your tracks remind me of LTJ Bukem. Seeing that most hardcore jungle heads prefer the blitzkrieg beats that other DJs such as those which Dieselboy crank out and the down tempo, chill sub-category has a markedly smaller audience, does this affect you?

J-dub: It doesn’t affect me at all because people still seem to be digging the music I’m putting out. I do make some heavier stuff at times but really it depends on my mood. Right now I’m working on a hip hop beat for a group called “Gun Hill” also I’m continuing to go a more experimental route with my new side project Glitch in the Core.

Randomn3ss: How important is MySpace to you?

J-dub: Extremely important, it’s integral in getting my music out to people at the moment

Randomn3ss: Being on your friends list, you bombard the bulletins. Do you get any negative feedback from them, or do you just view it as a way of promoting yourself?

J-dub: Not at all, I only put out bulletins when I have a new song or someone I feel my fellow friends should be listening too. If people don’t like my bulletins there is this little thing called delete friend. Also I do make a lot of tracks so there might be quite a few bulletins out there by me!

Randomn3ss: What are your views on piracy and bittorent?

J-dub: Ah, how did I know this question was going to come up? Being an independent artist I think piracy is very damaging in the fact that if you want my music I would obviously prefer you buy it. Now on the same note am I guilty of using bittorrent to download samples.

Randomn3ss: If the internet, file sharing and MySpace weren’t around right now, how would this affect the tracks you make, the feedback you get from those that listen and distribution of the tracks to artists?

J-dub: I don’t think I would exist on a plane where anyone except my closest friends could listen to my tracks.

Randomn3ss: Seeing that the underground rave scene is dead and most parties today are held at clubs and tend to be fairly organized, can electronic music still hold a valuable spot in today’s culture? Seeing that anyone with a computer and some software can make beats and mix them together, it would seem the days of lugging around cases of records to large, dirty clubs are at the end of the rope and things will move to a cleaner, digital phase whereas people party at small home gatherings more often.

J-dub: The rave scene is dead? I didn’t get the memo, lol. I think it definitely holds a valuable spot in today’s culture. I mean turn on your TV and watch a commercial electronica is everywhere

Randomn3ss: OK, give me the conclusion, give shouts, props, and plugs, whatever to those that have supported you, who you admire and helped you out and where you as an artist want to be in the next 10 years.

J-dub: In ten years I just want to be making music and happy with what I make…. as far as supporters you can check out my label, Dirty Junglist Squad Records

And the individuals on the label:Dirty Junglist Squad Records

J-dub’s music can be heard at his official MySpace page, please add him to your friends list and drop him a message with feedback on his tracks.

Q&A with Olaf Starorypinski – Fine Art Photographer

© Olaf StarorypinskiOlaf Starorypinski has been and will continue to be an influence in my photography and has already taught me so much in such a short amount of time, which is why I chose to do our first Q&A session with him. His fine art nude, glamour and fashion photography is on today’s cutting edge of the industry, and so is the equipment he uses. He also manages several models careers.

Would you consider yourself a professional photographer, i.e. is this your living or your passion?

Olaf: It has always been a passion, and I think it always will be. Although I do not make 100% of my income from photography, it’s becoming a larger and larger part of what I do for a living. I also own and run a company that does architectural lighting design.

How did you get started, who / what influenced you?

Olaf: I was given a Zenith E 35mm SLR when I was about 13 or 14. The results of the 1st roll of film I ever shot were about 100 times better than what my Dad had ever shot (I’m so modest) and I really liked being so much better at something than my Dad! I also really liked shooting…

I’ve always been fascinated with light and lighting. It used to drive my grandma nuts that when she took me to the movies as a small kid, I would crane my neck back and watch the beams of light coming out of the projector! I think my photo work reflect that interest in light.

Influences have been (and still are) David Bailey, Howard Schatz, Helmut Newton, Andreas Bitesnich, Robert Mapplethorpe, Herb Ritts, Sante D’Orazio, Giles Bensimon . Also, and almost as importantly, Mattise, Monet, Chagal, Rodin, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Turner. Pilobolus Dance Co, Twyla Tharp Dance Co, Martha Graham Dance Co, Alvin Ailey Dance Co.

Your style of photography includes harsh high contrast light more often than not, usually in a studio, so much so that it’s almost become your signature. What influenced this and why don’t you shoot natural light more often?

Olaf: Laughing….well, I’m glad I have developed a recognizable style, but I have to disagree with your use of the word “harsh.” True, I do use a lot of low key/high contrast set ups, but it’s very rarely “harsh”…that implies unpleasant. I hope it’s never unpleasant.

Another one of my early influences was Greek mythology, and I still enjoy reading it. My low key, sculptural treatment of the human body is often an interpretation of that genre.

I do shoot with natural light more and more these days. I find I go through phases of how I work, and the use of natural light is a part of those phases. One reason I like studio lighting is that it’s 100% controllable and I can manipulate it pretty much anyway I want.

All of your work is model / people based photography. Is this purely by choice, or because you find other subject matter such as landscapes, still life or objects boring?

Olaf: More laughter…no, I definitely do not find those other subjects “boring”!! In fact I do some landscape and still life photography.

One of the reasons that I shoot people is that I just find people VERY interesting. Also, I really enjoy collaborating with other creative people, whether it’s a model, make up artist, stylist, or another photographer. I’ve often had shoots where the end result is much better than I had hoped, but NOTHING like how I imagined…I love that!

Since you do shoot with models so often, how do you avoid getting into a rut in regards to posing them?

Olaf: Sometimes I do get into a rut, but I prefer to call it a “phase”(!!!) it’s sort of along the lines of what I mentioned earlier with regards to light. However, I am constantly influenced and inspired by all manner of art that I see, not just photography. Music is also a HUGE influence on my photography. I love trying to create an image inspired by a piece of music that I’ve heard.

It’s not hard to stay fresh if you just keep your eyes (and ears) open and really look at and study what you see or hear.

Do you feel that a models personality and ability to work with a photographer truly is important to a successful shoot, or is the photographer the one that should be blamed for poor posing and facial expressions?

Olaf: I absolutely believe that a model’s personality and talent have a HUGE influence on any image. If you listen to the world’s top photographer’s talk about who they like to shoot, you will almost always hear them using words like “attitude”, “charisma”, “magic” “charm” “seduction” before they talk about a model’s physical attributes. I’ve shot dozens of people who are physically stunning and beautiful, but look lifeless and dull in images. Some models can only do one or two “looks.” To be able to do it all is a very rare talent, and it’s why the top models get paid so much.

BUT, as the architect Mies van der Rohe said, “God is in the details” and the details are up to the photographer.

You’ve been shooting Digital SLR cameras since the Canon D30 was released, owning nearly every Canon DSLR body released and now shooting a Canon 1Ds mkII. Other then the obvious time advantages of shooting digitally and the reduced cost per shoot, what other advantages and / or disadvantages have you found shooting digitally?

Olaf: Good question, since it seems that everyone thinks that digital only has advantages…

The disadvantages are mostly time related. For instance, it used to be that I would shoot 200 images, send the film to the lab and have 200 pretty good images to share with my client a day or two later, end of story. Now when I shoot 200 images digitally, I spend a LOT of time editing and tweaking those images.

Color management is very important. Actually getting printed results that are identical to the colors on your screen is no simple task, it seems (please let me know if I’m wrong on this!!!)

Also storage is a problem. CD-Rs are (apparently) not archival, and hard drive space is expensive.

One of the biggest advantages of digital is being able to see results immediately. This has improved my photography immensely. You are now able to check all the crucial ingredients of an image as you shoot, and to a much better degree than you ever could with Polaroids.

What kind of time are you spending post-processing shots before they are ready to print?

Olaf: It totally depends on the image, and how much care I took taking care of the details during the shoot. Software is good, but it does have its limits.
Post-processing one image can take anywhere from 1 minute to over an hour or two.

How are you outputting your prints?

Olaf: I either give my client a CD of high-res TIFF files so they can print themselves (charging accordingly and retaining rights), or I print on an Epson 2200, or I have a commercial lab do the printing.

With all the high end electronic technology that you have at your disposal, every time I’m in your studio you have your Pentax 67 medium format film camera with you. What does it take for you to pull it out of the case and shoot it?

Olaf: Still more laughter! I use the Pentax 6×7 more often than you might think, especially for “fine art” images that are intended for gallery show etc. There is a quality to low iso black and white film that digital cannot rival.

Do you feel that film will always have a place for photographers, especially black and whites for their tonal values and slide films for their color saturation?

Olaf: Yes, definitely. See answer above! I cannot imagine that film will be going away completely anytime soon.

Over the last few years, technology has advanced, costs have come down and consumer point and shoot digital camera sales are now through the roof. This has resulted in a huge growth spurt for the photographic industry and everything around it, and sparked the interests of many people, old and young to try photography beyond your typical birthday or T-ball games snapshots. The bi-product of this is many budding “photographers” whom seem to be into everything from portraiture to wedding photography without any real training, experience or apprenticeship. Do you feel that this is hurting traditionally taught photographers?

Olaf: Hmmm…I think that the adage “you get what you pay for” is applicable here. Quality work will prevail.

Where it bothers me most is in the area of “fine art.” It seems that lots of people with a digital camera, but no training, no knowledge, no skill or talent, are taking pictures that are very average at best, and passing them off as “fine art” and galleries are buying! Now, I’ll be the first to admit that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that there is nothing as subjective as art, but I do think this trend is a bad one. Maybe that makes me elitist…oh well.

That said, I absolutely welcome an increase in interest in photography!

In regards to the previous question, is it true that you get what you pay for? Someone with more time and a traditional art / photography schooling background will tend to produce better photos then someone who is self taught?

Olaf: I didn’t read this question before I answered the last one…HONEST!!!

I don’t think that traditional or formal training is the crucial issue here. Talent and/or lots of practice are.

Where are you hoping to take your current career?

Olaf: I would like to do more fashion work, preferably for the magazines. That and a show at MOMA…

Any last words, comments or rants?

Olaf: Today’s words of wisdom & rants are…

Really look. Pay attention to everything around you. Use your eyes AND your brain…together, not just your eyes. And once you’ve looked, analyze, ponder, consider, and ruminate. Then go out and shoot…a LOT.

Will someone PLEASE explain to me why Microsoft is the dominant OS??? That stuff is utter crap.

“Models” on modeling websites who only have shitty webcam pix who say “No experience. Looking for paid work only” That ticks me off.

Buying high quality lenses is WAY more important than buying expensive cameras.

And…here is the advice my idol and mentor Howard Schatz gave me:

A photograph is only as good as its weakest element. Strive for excellence in EVERY aspect of your image.

Devour as much photography as you can. Buy every photography book and every magazine you can afford. Study imagery.

Take notes. Figure out what works for you, as well as what doesn’t, and WRITE IT DOWN!!!!

I’d like to thank Olaf for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do the interview. His work can be seen on his website: http://www.orsphoto.com

And his One Model Place porfolio is: here (not work safe)